Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Get me the hell out of Scarborough country

I caught Joe Scarborough on the Today show this morning defending racial profiling:

Oh, I don't have a problem with it for the same reason why I would have no problem with police chiefs in the south focusing on conservative Christian young males if there's another abortion clinic bombing... You look at abortion clinic bombings and unfortunately extremist Christian white males are the ones that have to be focused upon because they're the ones over the years that continue to commit these crimes.

You look at a situation like this, though, and whether it's on a subway or on a plane, and it makes absolutely no sense to fo--for the TSA to frisk my two-year-old baby daughter, which they do. It makes no sense for them to frisk my 72-year-old mother, which they do. We have limited resources, got a $400 billion debt--deficit right now, and the thing is we, you know, we aren't even protecting our ports or our rail lines because we get these limited resources. It seems to me we've got to focus on the people who, unfortunately, committed the 2001 terror attacks in the U--in the US; also USS Cole in 2000, Cobart Towers in '97...

The unspoken subtext in his statement is that "the people" that want to harm us are evil brown people. You can tell who they are just by looking at them. He's making the common (and very racist) assumption that Muslim equals Arab. Which is of course ridiculous. You can't identify anyone as a Muslim extremist by his appearance any more than you can identify a Klansman if he's not wearing a bedsheet.

His opponent was Hussein Ibish, of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America. As the blog I linked to above points out, Ibish wipes up the floor with Scarborough. Of the two, Ibish is the one with lighter skin, and could probably be taken as just any white guy on the street if you didn't know better, and if you didn't hear his accent.

Even if you accept Scarborough's claim that racial profiling will help, we'd have to search:

  • Middle Easterners: OK, this one is a bit obvious. But, frankly, I'm not sure I could tell an Israeli from a Palistian from an Iraqi on sight.
  • African Americans: One-third of American Muslims are black. Furthermore, the suspects in the British train bombings were East African, not Middle Eastern.
  • Hispanics: Jose Padilla, the dirty bomb suspect currently held without charge in South Carolina, is Hispanic.
  • Asians: This would include Indians, Pakistanis, and various other South Asians. People typically forget that the only chemical weapon terrorist attack on civilians in recent history happened in Japan in 1995.
  • Brits: Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was born in South London. I had to put him in as a special section, because I honestly can't tell what ethnic group he belongs to. Go look at his picture over at Wikipedia. Honestly, can't tell if he is of Middle Eastern or Hispanic decent.

We'd basically have to profile half the population. (And, what, there just can't be any white Muslims in the world?) And the best part is that it won't work. The goal of terrorists isn't to attack any particular location or building, but to wreck as much havoc as they possibly can. They will go where the weak spot is. First, they tried to blow up the airport. When that failed, they took box cutters and made a very successful, if low-tech attack. Notice that they didn't try to do that again. The next attack was a guy with a bomb in his shoe. Terrorists adapt. When Israel was searching young Palistinean men, they started sending young women to do their bombing.

Imagine that (God forbid) there was a truck bombing of a government building, killing hundreds. Well, that sounds like we should start racial profiling of Muslims when renting trucks. Oh, but wait, that was done by a white guy. OK, so what if there was a bombing of a big sporting event, instead? Oh, wait, that was a white guy, and a Christian to boot. So why aren't we profiling white guys? Because we -- "we" being the white surburban types Scarborough is playing to -- aren't afraid of young white guys. We're afraid of the weird brown people that talk funny and don't worship Jesus in the correct way.

Basing security on what we think dangerous people will look like is no security at all.

Update (11 Aug 2005): White guy caught trying to sneak a bomb onto an airplane. No word from the Right about racial profiling of white guys.

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